CMO Insights: Short-Term to Long-Term Successes

an interview with
Yuchan Lee General Manager of Enterprise Marketing Management, IBM

While doing homework for another article, I ran across a recent study by IBM called “From Stretched to Strengthened” that offers insights into the challenges facing CMO’s around the world.  The study is well worth reading, especially if you are a CMO, and stresses a number of important themes including the needs to:

  • Deliver value to empowered customers
  • Foster lasting connections
  • Capture value, measure results

After reading the study, I reached out to IBM with some follow up questions and got in touch with Yuchan Lee, General Manager of IBM’s Enterprise Marketing Management business.  I think you will agree that Mr. Lee has smart things to say about measuring ROI, using social media for research, the importance of having a clear “corporate character” and finally, the need to think long-term when it comes to customer relationship building.

DN: Is ROI the right metric for CMOs or just one of many important metrics?
It is the most important, as reflected by our CMO Study. Other than a metric based on reflecting customer up-take (e.g., revenue, satisfaction level), which most companies already measure, marketing ROI is essentially the highest level scorecard for an organization’s ability to efficiently and effectively allocate its resource to hit marketing goals.

DN: Why do you think so many CMOs struggle to demonstrate ROI?
The heart of the challenge is the nature to which marketing activities influence buying behavior, and how behavior manifest itself over time. Measuring ROI in marketing involves sifting through tons of noise in the data to connect all the pieces of evidence that influenced the purchase behavior.  This is an inexact, statistically-based science that, until recently, was too hard to tackle.

DN: Why do you think marketers have been so slow to embrace research via social channels? (i.e. only 14% mine blogs)
Before a company embraces a social channel, it must first believe it has to.  This requires a shift in strategy based on the realization that consumers are more in control and the company is losing its grip on branding.  In my experience, this shift is scary to many companies and many are slow to realize it and to turn this realization into action.  Furthermore, even if one is ready to take action, the newness of engaging social networks makes it challenging to know where to begin.

DN: Why should marketers expand their research horizons beyond traditional channels to things like blogs?
We believe traditional marketers need to expand not just research but all areas of market and customer engagement as well as demand generation to the social channels.  That’s where the center of influence for purchase decisions is and will continue to be. That’s where detailed, real-time, and unfiltered market feedback data can be best gathered and analyzed, and ultimately where the brand of a company will truly be reflected in the future (if not already!).

DN: What’s in it for the more proactive marketers who are mining new digital data sources?
Additional data, if incorporated properly, allows a company to know what is relevant to its customers — potentially down to the individual customer level.  We believe the ability of a company to deliver relevant communication in sales/marketing/services is the basic ingredient to a successful customer relationship and a prerequisite to staying in business.

DN: A lot of marketers pay lip-service to their corporate values.  Will developing a clear ‘corporate character’ really deliver competitive advantage?
Having clarity on a company’s corporate character is a necessary but not sufficient element of success.  It must be followed by execution by the organization, every day, delivering a consistent customer experience that is aligned with the corporate character.  The true reflection of the corporate character will come out quickly, most likely in social media.

DN: Your report emphasizes the need to “foster lasting connections.”  Is this goal in conflict with the typically pressing need to deliver short-term revenue?
No.  In our experience, being relevant and adding value to the customer in every communication and interaction is the common denominator for forging a lasting connection with the customer AND the ability to drive successful short-term revenue.  After all, long-term success is made up of series of short term successes!

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